Maersk Invests in California-Based Electrofuel Startup

Courtesy Prometheus Fuels

Published Sep 23, 2021 10:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

Maersk Group has announced that it is investing in a new electrofuel startup based in California, Prometheus Fuels. It joins BMW's venture capital arm, which has already committed to funding Prometheus' novel technology.

Maersk is looking at four different decarbonization pathways, including biodiesel, alcohols, lignin-enhanced alcohols and ammonia. Prometheus' modular equipment can produce green alcohols like methanol - the fuel for Maersk's first zero-carbon shipbuilding initiative. 

"Electrofuels are expected to play a key role for the decarbonisation of shipping and, if scaled successfully, Prometheus Fuels’ technology will address a key constraint for carbon based electrofuels – namely the cost competitiveness of direct air capture," said Morten Bo Christiansen, the head of decarbonization at Maersk. 

The electrofuel process reacts carbon dioxide with hydrogen to make familiar carbon-based fuels. The production process requires concentrated CO2, and typically this is supplied by the waste exhaust from a fossil-fueled industrial plant. Since Prometheus' technology captures its CO2 supply from ambient air instead, the process is unquestionably carbon neutral: carbon comes out of the air during fuel production, then goes back into the air again after fuel combustion. The technology is also independent of the availability of concentrated CO2 streams.

“Our zero net carbon, zero sulphur electrofuel . . . comes from renewable electricity and air so its feedstock is limitless,” said Rob McGinnis, the serial entrepreneur behind Prometheus. “Our electrofuel offers a truly viable solution to decarbonize shipping – one that can scale and be implemented in time to avoid catastrophic global warming."

Prometheus claims that its direct air capture (DAC) technology for CO2 has the lowest operating cost on the market. It also claims to have the first molecular-sorting filter for separating alcohol from water without distillation. With promising breakthroughts, it has attracted several prominent investors and customers - including American Airlines, which has committed to buying up to 10 million gallons of the startup's sustainable aviation fuel. BMW has invested directly in Prometheus, and it envisions using its techology to create "micro-cells of gasoline production where there is a surplus of renewable energy available."